“Sentral merges much larger ideas about how we live and travel and how we explore,” says Geoff Cook. Photo of Sentral DTLA 755 provided by Base Design. Photography by Marie Noorbergen.

Designing for the Flexible Living Generation

By Dan Howarth and Liz Sheldon
​​As a partner in the leading branding firm Base New York,
Geoff Cook
has helped shape the identity of iconic names like NeueHouse, MoMA Design Store, and even Prince. His work with Sentral includes not only crafting the identity of our brand, but also guiding the future of Sentral — and revolutionizing the meaning of home — as a member of our board. We caught up with Geoff to discuss how he helped bring Sentral to life, the trends he’s seeing in the design space, and the ways his own work habits have shifted in this new era of flexibility.

What was the scope of work for Base, and how fundamental was it in developing Sentral as a brand?

Even as early as our initial presentation, something that we stressed was that Sentral should not be thought of as a traditional real-estate business, because it's not. It's really a new model that merges much larger ideas about how we live and travel and how we explore. This was the starting point of a larger premise — the concept of
, which is shorthand for the accretive nature of Sentral. It’s a home + flexibility + exploration + world class amenities + passive income. 

Branding has to translate to so many different platforms and scales these days. How do you approach designing for a generation that relies on Instagram and TikTok as their primary methods of discovery?

It’s true, there are now so many formats for a brand to exist in. This can be a design challenge but also a really exciting opportunity, because there are new and unexpected ways in which people can now interact. For Sentral, it was key to have a strong, foundational brand toolkit that could really flex across different platforms. We don't just want the brand to work with the platforms of today, but also those of tomorrow.
Photo courtesy of Geoff Cook. Photo by Lydie Nesvadba.
More and more, we have come to understand that the most successful brands have a fundamental knowledge of who their core communities are, and how to authentically engage them. In addition to these actions being “real," they must also be culturally relevant in order to create buzz.

How is the concept of Home+ translated through the visual identity, campaigns, and other branding?

It starts with the tagline for the brand, “Home is when you belong” (an obvious play on “Home is where you belong”). This idea of a community that is connected not just emotionally, but physically through a tech-enabled foundation. Next to this, we incorporate the “+” symbol, an iconic mark that can also have a functional purpose of demonstrating all the various aspects to Sentral.
Photography plays a very important role. We really took a page out of our hospitality or even fashion playbooks to really illustrate the different aspects of what Sentral is about, and we've cast a wide array of characters that reflect the inclusive nature of the brand. Each of these elements play an important role.
Photography for the brand took cues from fashion and hospitality. Photo of Sentral DTLA 755 provided by Base Design. Photography by Marie Noorbergen.

What was the process for choosing that perfect Sentral yellow? It's such a distinctive, eye-grabbing shade.

Bauhaus color guru
Johannes Itten
wrote "yellow gives the effect of weightlessness," which our design team felt really suited the liberated, exploratory lifestyle that Sentral enables. We experimented with many shades, but landed on our chosen yellow for its balance of warmth and optimism, without being overly bright or garish. We felt very strongly that a new brand like Sentral should have one solid, primary brand color, and yellow stood out in its sector.

What made you decide to join the Sentral board?

When Iconiq approached me about joining the Sentral board, we had already been working on the brand for quite some time. And the more we worked, the more it became clear that the business model is completely novel within the residential and hospitality worlds, and that there is an opportunity to create an entirely new business sector.
For me, there's “Before Sentral” and “After Sentral.” Before, there were artificial lines drawn between the amount of time people would stay in an apartment: “longer than 30 days,” extended leases that were typically signed in yearly increments, and “short-term stays” that came more in the form of corporate housing and furnished apartments. And then to keep things interesting, Airbnb came on the scene. What's so compelling about Sentral is that from the outset, they said, “This model is no longer applicable. It's broken. And these lines are artificial.” I found that idea, of truly redefining the concept of home, extremely compelling and ambitious, so I jumped at the opportunity to join the board.

What do you think has caused the shift in attitude between a traditional rental model and the one that Sentral is offering?

Prior to the pandemic, people were already changing the way that they were living. The younger generations were already mobile-first. The fact that co-working spaces became such a prevalent part of our society is just one indication of that shift to a much more mobile workforce. With the pandemic, the mobile workforce became a mobile live-force. 
There are definitely certain industries that lend themselves better to mobile and remote work: the creative industries, tech, lifestyle. My friends who are financial traders or in commercial real estate, they're not leaving NYC. They've been back at their desks for a year. However, for millennials, young Gen-Z’ers, and mobile professionals, Sentral will be an absolute magnet. This group tends to be single and sociable, so the connected community aspect that is provided not just through amenities but culturally relevant programming is also a big draw. I think this is much more emblematic of the way that people are living today. Sentral’s model is a reflection of this macro-shift.
Making a clear distinction between work and home life is critical to staying productive. Photo of Sentral DTLA 755 provided by Base Design. Photography by Marie Noorbergen.

How have you found your own work habits changing to be more mobile? 

My shift to mobile has been very pronounced. And while that may appear to bring a certain freedom, if not handled appropriately, one can feel as free as a bird in a cage. I've therefore focused on a few things to make working on the go a bit easier, including:
  • A dedicated office set-up. At home in Brooklyn, I found myself working from my couch over the past year, which is not good. Here on Kiawah Island, where I’ve spent the summer, I have a dedicated office with a desk, chair, printer, and a great view! It has made all the difference. I find myself 50% more productive.
  • A clear delineation between work time and home life. Prior to the pandemic, we came to and left work. There were clear lines between when work started and ended. As we all have experienced, the risk with being fully mobile lies in the blurring of those lines. I have tried to maintain clear cut-off times, though with our studios in Europe and Australia, that has become increasingly difficult.
  • Taking breaks. Similar to the above, in an office environment, we organically took breaks, be it for lunch or an impromptu meeting at the espresso machine. It is important to mimic these habits when working remotely by taking breaks, even if that means strolling around the neighborhood without a phone.
  • Exercise. This goes without saying, whether working remotely or not. I've also been listening to podcasts while biking to make the time pass by more quickly.

In addition to Sentral, what are you the most excited about in the design and branding world? Are there other agencies or projects you've been really blown away by recently?

On my way down to South Carolina, I stayed at my friend Katherine Lo's hotel,
The Eaton
, in Washington DC. What she has created has the chance to become a great hospitality brand. They are razor-focused on their core community (liberal activists) and understand what that audience wants, from the design moves to the in-house radio station to the food offerings in the café. As a result, the brand feels very "pure." It therefore came as no surprise that I walked away saying, "Wow, my entire time there felt really great."